Period poverty - a topic many consider taboo in the same way as talking about actual periods. The shame surrounding it often makes it difficult for us to ask for help so much so that a whole wave of employers have been moved to put supplies in their toilets or even a dedicated supplies cupboard for people to help themselves (kudos to these wonderful people). Periods whether we are willing to admit it or not are a natural bodily function for the purpose of giving birth. Earlier this year an Action UK survey highlighted that 12% of British women are experiencing period poverty and have had to use makeshift products to manage their period, prioritising warmth and food over buying essentials such as period pads and tampons. Society portrays periods to be this burden that those of us equipped with the relevant organs must seemingly suffer and even be branded in some incidences as dirty. The stigma this has caused is detrimental to our well-being; nearly half of those who struggled to afford period products left their pads or tampons in for longer - whether knowingly or not increasing risks of infections and toxic shock syndrome. Whilst toxic shock syndrome is very rare it can still be fatal in a small number of cases so there is no question of whether it's important to raise awareness and reduce the likelihood of infection. Of the 40 cases reported in the UK every year 2 to 3 die, it will be interesting to observe whether the overall number of cases will rise given that some are increasing the length of time they are using a tampon, purely to save money. The abolishment of the tampon tax in 2020 is only a small part of a very long journey we seem to be on as there is still VAT chargeable on reusable products.
Disposable products have historically been popular due to the fact that periods are considered a dirty bodily function, the notion that it has to be disposed of immediately and whilst blood is not necessarily the most pleasant of things it does not need to be stigmatized as filthy and embarrassing. Speaking to friends and customers it can cost £60 and £150 per year to buy enough products which if used for approx 45 years can be anywhere between £2700 and £6750 (maybe more if your flow is problematic).
Reusable period pads and pants have an initial cost of slightly more than the average pack of pads or tampons (Around £40 for 10 pairs of pants) but they have a useable life of between 3 and 5 years meaning that one would be spending an average of £600 if one was to replace them every 3 years £360 if changed every 5 years. If you prefer period pads only this would cost between £243 (5 years) and £405 (5 years) which saves tonnes of waste going to the landfill and ensures you will always be prepared (no need to run out and buy disposables when you have them ready at home) This is a significant saving in terms of money, if one were to switch to a menstrual cup as they are made from medical grade silicone removing the risk of toxic shock syndrome almost completely the cost would be reduced significantly again as they only need to be replaced every 10 years or so depending on the quality of the silicone.
I think its time to start feeling more positive about our periods and not in a Always “Happy Period” way but in a celebrating our bodies kind of way, yes it can be difficult when the cramps are like knives the flow is heavier than a monsoon, it also hard to deal with hormones making you feel in-human but paying attention to your body can help you understand how to make yourself feel better, some can even correctly predict where they are in their cycle, allowing them to embrace their body’s rhythm and manage their pain/moods more effectively. It's truly time we started understanding that our periods are a whole section of our lives that needs to be embraced. It is time for us to feel comfortable enough to share our experiences and worries - not to be scared to ask for support. Schools are being encouraged through Government schemes to provide free period products, funding is available and yet a large number of schools are yet to sign up for the scheme. It is every child’s nightmare to experience the embarrassment of their first period at school but we don't get to choose when and where it happens so it is incredibly important that there are measures in place to support the students and not just in the nurse’s office, they need to be available in the toilets for those in need. There should be no need to feel embarrassed to ask or be caught short when the government is providing funding. Providing education about reusable projects is essential as this will reduce the reliance on expensive disposable options.
If you would like to get involved in helping eliminate period poverty you can use the ONFY - A Different Kind of Gift Card which you can give to anyone who wants to get started with reusbables or use it to donate directly to great causes like Bloody Good Period who directly help those affected by period poverty.